Sunglasses Retainers Compared

chums.jpgI once dropped a $200 pair of Costa Del Mar sunglasses in a small creek in the Smokies and watched as they were swept away. The culprit was the $5 set of Wal-Mart sunglass retainers I had foolishly trusted to keep my expensive shades safe. Apparently the fine people at Wal-Mart thought it’d be a good idea to use a water-based glue for the rubberized strap end, and when that rubber end gave way, bang! Bye bye, shades.
Since then I’ve paid a lot more attention to the straps I attach to my shades. I’ve also watched other anglers, and I’ve noticed several types.

First, you have your fly line strap, probably the cheapest for us anglers and darned effective. The downsides with tying fly line to your shades are (1) you might need to drill a pair of holes in the sunglass stems, (2) you’ve got bulky knots catching in your hair (assuming you have hair) and (3) you get a ton of questions.
Then you’ve got your grannie straps, the kind with the little clear plastic ring tightener, that hang perpendicularly from the sunglass stem. I like these in theory, because the retainer hangs naturally instead of sticking way out in the back. Unfortunately, we’re back in Wal-Mart territory here – do you want to trust your $200 polaroids to a tiny rubber gasket?
I also see a lot of those all-neoprene jobs that fit tightly to the back of the head. I’m not going to lie to you: I hate these. They’re too tight, so my glasses constantly fog up, and I find them hot. They’re also not long enough to let the glasses hang out of my way; I feel like I’m wearing a bib.
Finally (and this list is by no means exclusive), I see a lot of what I’ll call internal-gasket fabric retainers, most commonly made by Chums (but usually re-badged as a promotional product). These are my favorites; they are typically hollow tubes of fabric with a length of rubber tubing sewn inside. The tubing stretches over the thick end of the stem, but then compresses nicely around the thinner part. Because the inside of the gasket is also fabric-covered, you don’t have to lick or otherwise lube them to get them to slide on, and being hollow, the fabric is limp enough to hang straight down and not get hung in your car’s headrest, etc.
What kind of sunglass retaining strap do you prefer? Let us know in the Comments section!

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  • Bruce Harris
    This Croakies product, REAX, isn’t well known. It is a silicone rubber earpiece, that substitutes for the old coil type ear pieces. They slip over the temple ends. I’ve used them on all my glasses for over 10 years. They come with a long lanyard that optionally clips to the silicone pieces that makes a neck lanyard.
    Unlike the wire coil temples, these never irritate the back of my ears.

  • Rob

    What kind of sunglass retaining strap do you prefer?
    Here is another option that can be worn around the back of the neck for normal security or around the back of the head and around the front of the neck for extra security:

  • Ninja

    The problem with internal gasket retainers is they change the fit of the frame to one’s head. A long day on the water can become an eternity with a splitting head ache because of pressure on the skull.
    I wish I had a product to recommend, or an idea to develop so I could retire…

  • Richard Franklin

    While most anglers are aware of the critical importance of high quality polarized eyewear, Mathew’s piece on retainers is very relevant as this simple, inexpensive product category is often overlooked – until ones prized shades are seen sinking and drifting irretrievably away.
    I tend to prefer retainers affixed to the mid-point of the temples when trout fishing so my glasses (and I mean GLASS glasses) may dangle naturally and be returned to my face one-handed after changing flies. etc. and attached to the temple ends when fishing the salt, running in boats and dealing with wind. The key issues are quality and reliability. EK USA of Logan, Utah (a company with whom I have no affiliation of any kind) makes retainers using tightly woven, varied colored nylon chord with molded rubber fittings that clamp mid-temple or, alternatively, with robust rubber tubing that slides over the temple ends. I have purchased this brand at fly shops for years and find them comfortably unobtrusive, adjustable, reliable and they embody the look and feel of quality gear. I also use the Chums model that features nylon chord with molded rubber ends that slide over the ear piece to lodge mid-temple. These work best with narrow temple, metal framed glasses, are far superior to the elastic-loop-with-metal-coil variety and are very good until the rubber stretches out and reliability fades.

  • feckert

    I’ve had many of the same issues mentioned in this article. I found that by tying a good 6-7 turn nail knot over the part of the strap that covers the ear pieces of my glasses behind the ear the holder(no matter the type as long as it is not mono)locks the straps in place very well and I hardly notice it. I apply “knot sense” over the knot which smooths it out nicely after I trim it well,and locks it in place really well.